I was the managing editor at Sidequest.Zone, an independent gaming criticism website for writers of marginalized genders, from 2017–2021. As such, I think a lot about games, from reviews to personal essays to critiques of the industry.
In another industry, this mistreatment of employees would be unfair, but hopefully atypical; in the gaming industry, they’re not only a regular occurrence, but exist within a culture that expects employees to work often unreasonable hours with no overtime compensation. Video-game journalist Jason Schreier describes this practice and others as hallmarks of “crunch culture,” which routinely expects employees to adjust to “a sudden spike in work hours, as many as 20 a day, that can last for days or weeks on end. During this time, [developers] sleep at work, limit bathroom breaks, and cut out anything that pulls their attention away from their screens, including family and even food.”
Before 5/Royal fans, of which I am one (Royal my favorite game!), come barging down my door, I want to be clear: despite the little we see of his true colors, or perhaps because of the ways fans expand on his personality, I relate most to Joker out of any character. And dressing as him, channeling him—that’s peak gender euphoria for me. So this is not me yelling at Atlus for this protagonist, or for Yu from P4, or for Minato from P3. But I do think that much of the personalities ascribed to these characters come from 1) projections by others (meaning us, the players), both within the game and outside it; 2) other sources, e.g. manga/anime; 3) fandom. All of these are, for me, valid ways to understand and interact with the protagonist. My argument here is that the game’s narrative itself can and should give these characters—or in this case, Joker—more canonical traits and/or more opportunities to expand on the canonical personality we do have, because that can only enrich our interactions with the game and understanding of the characters.
© 2022, Naseem Jamnia
Photos of Naseem by Jennie Kaplan, 2018, and Jeramie Lu, 2022